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Iowa Ideas Conference will search for complex solutions to problems in Iowa

Iowa Ideas Conference

Discussions on issues impacting Iowans will take place at the Iowa Ideas Conference in September in Cedar Rapids.

The 2017 Iowa Ideas Conference is September 20-22 in downtown Cedar Rapids at the Double Tree Conference and Convention Center in downtown Cedar Rapids. This year the Iowa Ideas Conference has over 250 speakers with 80 sessions. It starts September 20 in the Paramount Theatre with Keynote speaker Alec Ross before two days of speakers, workshops and panel discussions.

The Iowa Ideas Conference—which is organized by The Gazette—focuses on eight tracks:

  • Agriculture,
  • K-12 education
  • Higher education,
  • Transportation,
  • Energy and Environment,
  • Workplace revolution/culture,
  • Workforce/Regionalism
  • Healthcare

Zach Kucharski, Executive Editor of The Gazette, said these are eight issues the newspaper covers on a daily basis and wants to encourage deep discussions with this event to hopefully, move closer to solutions.

“We view this as the start and some continuation of discussion,” Kucharski said. “This is going to be an ongoing effort for us, we believe bringing people together and having them engage in about issues is a critical part of journalism. This is an evolution of what we are trying to do as an organization.

“We want people to learn.”

Each of the eight tracks will feature conversations about the challenges and issues facing the state and look at some of the solutions being tried.

Sarah Binder, Community Engagement Manager at The Gazette, said some of the challenges will be specific to each but there will also be overarching themes.

“The impact of technology,” Binder said. “The changing demographics of Iowa is also something we’re really digging into. Whether that’s the aging population, the role of immigration in our state, the rural/urban divide goes into that as well.”

To register for the Iowa Ideas Conference, click here.

Iowa Ideas Conference will search for complex solutions to problems in Iowa | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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